After the Italian health minister confirmed on Twitter plans to approve the administration of abortion-inducing pharmaceuticals outside of hospitals, Catholic commentators reacted with concern, especially for women who could be at home, cramping and bleeding.
Roberto Speranza, the health minister, tweeted Aug. 8 that new guidelines from the ministry would be forthcoming and would "foresee the voluntary interruption of pregnancy with the pharmacological method in a day hospital and up until the ninth week" of pregnancy.
Current national guidelines require women seeking use of the drug commonly known as RU-486 to be hospitalized for three days. The drug regime initially was approved to end pregnancies only until the seventh week after the start of the woman's last menstrual period.
Only about 20% of abortions in Italy are performed using the two-drug regime: mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue, and misoprostol, taken two days later, which stimulates uterine contractions to expel the fetus.
Administering the drugs in a "day hospital" would mean that a short time after a woman takes the mifepristone she would be checked for adverse reactions and allowed to go home; she would return to the clinic two days later for the misoprostol and again be released.
The regional council of Tuscany voted in June to allow the administration of the drugs outside a hospital, practically forcing the national government to review its guidelines. During the coronavirus lockdown, abortion proponents and physicians who perform abortions had demanded the government make such provisions, especially because hospitals were overwhelmed and anyone who did not have the coronavirus was advised to stay away.
The new guidelines apparently will advise against foregoing hospitalization for women who would be alone at home, who are very anxious or who have a low threshold for pain.
The "indications speak for themselves, confirming what we already know about this abortion procedure, which does not change the nature of the act: the suppression of a human life remains, whatever technique is used," wrote Assuntina Morresi, a professor of chemistry and member of Italy's National Bioethics Committee.
Writing Aug. 8 in Avvenire, the Italian Catholic daily newspaper, Morresi said that given the pain and bleeding and potential complications from a chemical abortion, politics is the only motivation for dropping the requirement of hospitalization.
"RU-486 is part of a process, already seen in other countries, of 'privatizing' abortion and removing it from the public scene," she said. "The spread of the pharmacological procedure implies the spread of a method by which women can abort at home as if the abortion was just any medical act that regards only the private life of the person who chooses it."
Instead, she said, abortion "is above all a social problem that questions and calls into question everyone, an event that society tends to limit as much as possible because it is extremely negative."
What freedom have women won, Morresi asked: "That of aborting between the dining room and bathroom in the hope of not having to seek emergency assistance at the hospital? That of remaining alone to face the most dramatic act a woman can undertake?"